Pastor Wright Back in the Spotlight

Washington Matters

Pastor Wright Back in the Spotlight

It seems like the only person remotely involved in politics who hasn't said much about the controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's long-time pastor, is Wright himself. And his turn finally comes Friday in an interview on public television. Even if Wright hurts Obama by rekindling the controversy over anti-American comments he made from the pulpit, the appearance is a blessing -- a potentially excruciating one, but a blessing nonetheless.

Wright, who caused Obama some of the worst trouble of his campaign when video surfaced of tirades he delivered against the United States, was bound to go public sometime. And as far as Obama is concerned, the further from a general election battle with John McCain, the better.

Sure, his appearance comes less than two weeks before the North Carolina and Indiana primaries and is bound to make the Democratic front-runner nervous. But unless Wright uncorks information that is actually damning to Obama personally, it's hard to see how anything Wright says can cost him more support. Wright, who has retired from the church, has probably done all the damage he can do.

First, most voters have probably pretty much made up their minds about how Wright affects their thinking. Second, Wright has long survived in the brass knuckles world of Chicago politics and the politics of urban black churches, and unless he wants to deliberately hurt Obama, he is unlikely to do anything but put at least a somewhat softer face on the controversy. His heroic World War II service, for example, is likely to come up in the interview with Bill Moyers, and Wright is bound to provide some explanation, context and possibly even an apology for the remarks.

But even if Wright repeats or defends his most flagrantly hateful comments -- or makes new outrageous ones -- would that be all bad? It would give Obama a clear opportunity to say, OK, enough is enough and I just can't have anything to do with you anymore. That's something he really couldn't do before -- and apparently never wanted to do -- because it would appear so disingenuous.

The interview will make for interesting television Friday, most pundits will rearrange their schedules to watch. With the Democratic race dragging on, perhaps Wright will find a way to add one more dramatic twist. And who wants to take a chance of missing that?